Wanley and Chapman. An unsigned review of Essays and Studies by Members of the English Association, vol. XI, collected by Oliver Elton
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[ 603 Wanley and Chapman An unsigned review of Essays and Studies by Members of the English Association, vol. XI, collected by Oliver Elton London: Milford, 1925. Pp. 169.1 Times Literary Supplement, 1250 (31 Dec 1925) 907 If one misses the names of the greater humanists who have given special distinction to the earlier volumes of this series – Mr. Saintsbury, for instance, is absent, and W. P. Ker and Henry Bradley will be here no more – yet there is none of these six essays which was not worth the collecting and which is not worth the reading.2 The level is maintained. The essays are scholarly, modest and cautious in generalization; they all provide at least the material for some valuable piece of literary criticism. Mr. Wyld’s “Diction and Imagery in Anglo-Saxon Poetry” is an intelligent and meritorious attempt to educate opinion on that very much neglected part of our literature – neglected, that is, by the general literary critic.3 Miss Birkhead accumulates instructive information on “Sentiment and Sensibility in the Eighteenth-Century Novel,” which should be pondered by those who are tempted to exaggerate the virtues of that century.4 Mr. Routh’s essay on medieval vision literature is amazingly documented, and is useful for any student of those centuries;5 but his learning seems too exclusively literary for an era which was primarily theological, witness his remark: with the advent of the Dark Ages humanists and visionaries returned to this immemorial tradition of wretchedness and degeneracy, and as men always seek to visualize their despondencies no less than their enthusiasms, they established and developed the doctrine of original sin, [124-25] which as an account of the origin of this doctrine is at least incomplete. There are two papers which call for more extended notice: Mr. L. C. Martin’s “Forgotten Poet of the Seventeenth Century” and Miss Janet Spens’s “Chapman’s Ethical Thought.”6 The Reverend Nathaniel Wanley was born in 1634, became an M. A. of Trinity College, Cambridge, and died in 1680 at Coventry, where he was 1925 604 ] Vicar of Holy Trinity. One of his poems, “The Invitation,” appears in Mr. H. J. Massingham’s Treasury of Seventeenth-Century Verse; but it is Mr. Robin Flower of the British Museum, Mr. Martin tells us, who discovered the authorship of the manuscript Scintillulae Sacrae.7 Of the authorship of these poems there now seems to be very little possibility of doubt. In Mr. Martin’s essay several poems are given in full. The more lyrical pieces – of which, to judge by this selection, Mr. Massingham’s choice is the best, though we do not suppose that Mr. Massingham had seen any of the others – are, as Mr. Martin says, very distinctly influenced by Vaughan, and some of them are almost as good as Vaughan in his less inspired moments. In an age when the technique and content of lyrical verse were so well standardized , it is not surprising to find such excellences. What surprises us more is the excellence of the two poems in heroic couplets. The long “Witch of Endor” is a well-sustained version of Saul’s visit, and of his subsequent death, which in itself is enough to make this volume of English Studies worth possessing.8 “The Resurrection,” a shorter piece, is very pleasing, and has, we think, a greater individuality than any of the devotional lyrics. It may be observed that Mr. Wanley, like some contemporary poets, is very sparing in punctuation: Can death be faithfull or the Grave be just Or shall my tombe restore my scattred dust Shall ev’ry haire find out its proper pore And crumbled bones be joined as before Shall long-unpractis’d pulses learne to beate Victorious rottennesse a loud retreate Or eyes ecclipsed with a tedious night May they once hope to resalute the light What if this flesh of mine be made the prey Of scaly Pirates Caniballs at sea Shall living Sepulchres give up there dead Or is not flesh made fish then perished What if the working of a subtile flame By an unkind embrace dissolve this frame To ashes; and the whistling winds convey Each atome to a quite contrary way Shall the small Pilgrims that perhapps may passe [ 605 Wanley and Chapman From grasse to flesh and thence from flesh to grasse Travell untill they meet and then embrace So strictly as to grow the former face? [12] Mr. Wanley, by the way, was...


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